Adaptors: Robert Stigwood &Bill Oakes
Music &Lyrics: The Bee Gees
Director: Ryan McBryde
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
Get that arm and the first finger ahoy and pointing ready to bust some moves, or at least watch them, for the iconic Saturday Night Fever is in town this week! When a certain John Travolta sashayed onto the dance floor in the now so-celebrated 1977 film of the same name it changed the way the world saw dance and the way we moved once and for all! Who has not emulated Travolta’s moves at some party the moment the DJ plays that song? The classic film led to an amazing surge of participation in dancing and dance classes around the globe, much the way Strictly has in the U.K over the last decade. This show, although it has many of the famous songs, people will be delighted to hear, is much more about social realism and how hard it was back then!
So the story goes that it’s 1976 in the ‘interesting’ New York borough, Brooklyn and one Tony Manero, a young Italian guy, is going nowhere and is utterly fed up with his work at the paint store. He has an incredible ability to dance and his one real ambition is to become the King of Disco and to escape his humdrum world. He comes across the lovely young Stephanie, who he adores. She also has dreams of a life and a place beyond dead-end Brooklyn and is trying to do something about it, and the two come to an agreement that they should train together for a dance competition in which they could win a lot of money. It is at this point that their lives slowly start to metamorphose and there is no going back.
Director Ryan McBryde successfully focuses us on the darker side of events, as per the original story. It is a gritty one at times, a tale of underachievement, the desire to improve one’s lot, of a boy who meets a girl who is not into him, of a girl who finds a boy who doesn’t care, of a big chance to win that all-important competition, and, oh dear!, the oh so tragic moments. Surely this cannot be a spoiler for who can have missed the movie?!
But mercifully the story also has some humour, which is definitely brought into this show. Tony’s ‘watch the hair’ routine, for example, which has us giggling aplenty and his sublime getting-ready-to-go-out -disco-mirror shenanigans in his black undies too. Excellent!
The central rôle of Tony Manero is taken on by the multi-talented Danny Bayne, who is well established in this part. He struts his stuff as a very believable Italo-American from the Big Apple and he is a truly slick dancer much in the Strictly pro style. He also has an amazing voice, which he uses well and which harmonises very well with the likes of Naomi Slights as Stephanie in songs such as the lovely duet How Deep Is Your Love?. The aforementioned Ms Slights has beautiful tones, as exhibited in her rendition of Who’s Sorry Now?. She, too, is a talented dancer and the pair work excellently together. Bethany Linsdell, an equally slick mover, brings us the part of Annette, the young girl who has a crush on Tony. Convincing acting from all three helps take the story along, which is just as well since the show’s pace is sometimes slow, particularly in the second part. Bobby C, performed here by Alex Lodge, is the hapless pal who nobody seems to notice and who is desperate for help and advice. Lodge plays the part fairly well and shows us the contrast between the poignancy and the slightly dizzy side of the character, but there is something missing and his version of Tragedy (which was not in the film) does not seem to work as it should, or is it that the number is so well known and so oft covered?! Matthew Quinn’s Frank Junior is believable and his long speech to Tony about his reasons for leaving the priesthood is quietly powerful. Quinn demonstrates his guitar talents too this evening.
Andrew Wright’s choreography is dynamic and the whole cast move with sharp synchronicity and energy. The pair-dancing in the competition is breath-taking at times, especially the Latin dances. Even more impressive are those cast members who play instruments as well!! Special mention must go to CiCi Howells for her voice and for the range of instruments she can play!The various club singers harmonise superbly and are each great singers in their own right. Simon Kenny’s set is simple but effective, mainly in three moving parts, and it reflects the gritty realism of the whole piece and works.
At times a little flat this is nevertheless a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment with incredible commitment shown by the whole cast, driven and often held by Danny Bayne.
Image: Nobby Clark | Runs until 28February 15
Tagged with: Alex Lodge Andrew Wright Bethany Linsdell Bill Oakes CiCi Howells Danny Bayne Matthew Quinn Milton Keynes Theatre Naomi Slights Robert Stigwood Ryan McBryde Saturday Night Fever Simon Kenny The Bee Gees